This fall, Darlington will become the only school in Northwest Georgia to offer a program specifically designed to support students with dyslexia. Focusing on grades 2-5, the Accelerated Learning Program for Dyslexia will provide necessary remediation with experienced learning specialists, while enabling students with dyslexia enrolled in the program to receive the full Darlington experience.
“Ours is a more integrated approach than current options for parents, which often involve withdrawing students from school and temporarily enrolling them in dyslexia-only schools,” said Head of School Brent Bell. “Our program will provide enrolled students with a traditional school experience, while offering them the level of support they need to be successful. This is a mission-appropriate approach for Darlington.”
Students enrolled in the Accelerated Learning Program for Dyslexia will participate in classes such as history, math, and science along with their peers, and be pulled out into small, ability-based groups for intensive reading remediation during English and Spanish.
“Students with dyslexia are creative, talented, eager to learn, and typically add much to the learning environments in which they are enrolled,” said Scott Greene, director of Darlington’s Teaching and Learning Center. “They are generally students of above-average intelligence whose brains process the components of reading differently than other students. There is no cure, though remediation programs such as ours can successfully be used to teach these students to read. These students are resilient and are able to be very successful in their fields of choice. They are often very talented artists, athletes and creative thinkers who tend to see the world differently.”
With a Teaching and Learning Center that spans all grades, Darlington School is uniquely positioned to undertake an endeavor like this.
“Most schools for students with dyslexia have one flaw in common: they typically end after eighth grade,” explained Greene. “The remediation is intensive, and the students are usually immersed in the program so that the average length of stay at typical schools for dyslexic children is two to three years. At that point, families struggle to place students in schools that provide the appropriate level of support.
“With Darlington’s Teaching and Learning Center, we can identify reading problems at a young age, remediate reading in the elementary grades, teach organization as well as study skills and strategies in the middle grades, and support the executive and metacognitive skills which will take our students through graduation,” he continued. “This program will allow us to maximize our ability to support students at all developmental levels.”
Led by Greene and his team of learning specialists, the program will use the evidence-based Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction to teach phonetic awareness, decoding and encoding. Tonya Greene, learning specialist for grades 3-5, will be the primary O-G teacher for the program, with Kimberly Exford, learning specialist for pre-K to 2, serving as an additional reading teacher.
“In our Teaching and Learning Center, we are fortunate to have several faculty members who already have expertise in the area of dyslexic education,” said Stefan Eady, assistant head of school for academic resources. “Scott is Orton-Gillingham trained and has more than 25 years of experience in education. Tonya is trained at the associate’s level of Orton-Gillingham and has 17 years of experience teaching reading and math using the O-G approach. Kimberly is trained in the Lindamood-Bell method of reading remediation and will become O-G certified this summer. She has over 10 years of experience working with struggling readers as well as reading psychological testing and administering screening instruments.”
In an effort to ensure that students enrolled in the Accelerated Learning Program for Dyslexia are successful in all of their academic classes, the Orton-Gillingham Classroom Educator training will be provided to all teachers, teaching assistants, and administrators who work with students in pre-K through fifth grade this summer. Next summer, all teachers in grades 6-8 will also be trained.
“This training will benefit all students, not just dyslexic learners,” said Eady. “It will enhance our teachers’ ability to use best practices based on brain research in all academic classes and support them in their ability to differentiate instruction to all learners. By doing this, we are creating an even higher level of consistency of best practices for teaching all students, further enhancing Darlington’s ability to distinguish itself from other schools in our region.”
Darlington has partnered with the Schenck School in Atlanta, Gracepoint School in Kennesaw, Ga., and The Key School in Asheville, N.C., to support training and ongoing professional development.
“Here at Darlington, we are purposeful in seeking out new ways to best serve our current families and the greater community, and this is one more example of that,” said Bell. “Current research states that 15% of the school-age population is dyslexic with this diagnosis making up 80% of all learning disabilities. This is a growing population in need of specialized resources that are not readily available in Rome. We’re very excited about this new opportunity to support students and help them thrive in an educational environment like Darlington.”
Families taking advantage of Darlington’s Accelerated Learning Program for Dyslexia will pay an additional fee. For more information, please contact Darlington School’s Admission Office at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited for the 2018-19 school year.
In addition, Darlington School will host an Understanding Dyslexia event in partnership with the International Dyslexia Association of Georgia on April 12 at 6:30 p.m. in Thatcher Hall. Free and open to the public, it will feature a presentation by Brenda Fitzgerald, a curriculum specialist whose area of expertise is reading and any disability that interferes with that process, as well as an opportunity for audience Q&A. Click here to register for the event.